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Commentary: Goodbye '03 Hello '04
... With the exception of the blue spectrum LED sector, and the handful of key defense contractors and their subs who are directly profiting from the current USA administration's ongoing "war," I doubt anybody working in advanced semiconductors is going to feel badly about saying "good-bye" to the year 2003....
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Mars Landing Marks "Return" of NASA

January 5, 2004...While the USA's DoD has enjoyed a healthy beefing of budgets... which directly trickles down to the compound semi R&D community, up until today, the USA's space agency, NASA, has remained "budget-challenged." On a shoestring, the famed agency successfully landed their latest equipment on Mars (Mars Rover) and with that achievement, came a fresh "enhanced for broadband" online presence for NASA. Check out the new look boasting a "We're Back" slogan that should get the interest of budget-setters in Washington, DC, along with the detailed, real time tracking of the Mars Mission over NASA's JPL realtime coverage. It's almost as good as being there. And note while you're looking, that compound semi technology is deeply embedded in the system. Our congratulations to our many friends and colleagues at NASA, and especially JPL, and to a renewed spirit of leading edge R&D that comes with such technology achievements.

Professors Holonyak & Feng Shed Light on Next Gen Transistors

January 5, 2004...The News Bureau at the USA's University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has posted an exciting and well written story covering Nick Holonyak Jr.'s and Milton Feng's newly published research on what appears to be a "light emitting" HBT. The new genre optoelectronic device was grown by MOCVD, layering InGaP, InGaAs, and GaAs on a GaAs substrate. As those in the compound semi research community well know, Nick is regarded as the true "inventor" of the LED and Milton is noted for his record-breaking transistors. Both are undisputed compound semi industry epitaxy experts. The full story on the U of Ill site is titled New Light Emitting Transistor Could Revolutionize Electronics Industry and is authored by Physical Sciences Editor, James E. Kloeppel. In it, Nick was quoted as saying, “We have demonstrated light emission from the base layer of a heterojunction bipolar transistor, and showed that the light intensity can be controlled by varying the base current. This work is still in the early stage, so it is not yet possible to say what all the applications will be. But a light-emitting transistor opens up a rich domain of integrated circuitry and high-speed signal processing that involves both electrical signals and optical signals." In outlining how their new device works, Milton explained that, whereas a transistor usually has two ports (one for input, one for output), "Our new device has three ports: an input, an electrical output and an optical output. This means that we can interconnect optical and electrical signals for display or communication purposes." Giving credit where credit is due, it was their graduate student, Walid Hafez, who fabricated the new light-emitting transistor in the university’s Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory. The team has demonstrated the modulation of light emission in phase with a base current in transistors operating at a frequency of 1 megahertz, and reported that much higher speeds are considered certain. In regard to the application potential, Milton Feng surmised that, “At such (higher) speeds, optical interconnects could replace electrical wiring between electronic components on a circuit board." The researchers pointed out that their work was rooted the original Nobel prize-winning work on Ge transistors by John Bardeen and Walter Brattain. Nick Holonyak was Bardeen's first grad student. Nick cleverly closed the news bureau coverage pointing out that his mentor couldn't see what they now see in GaAs. “The direct recombination involving a photon is weak in germanium materials, and John and Walter just wouldn’t have seen the light – even if they had looked. If John were alive and we showed him this device, he would have to have a big grin.”

5 European Companies Form EPIC Photonics Consortium

January 5, 2004...A consortium of potentially "EPIC" proportions has been formed as a means of living up to its acronym: EPIC, which stands for European Photonics Industry Consortium. In a joint press release issued Dec. 29th from EPIC headquarters in Paris, France, five European companies: Aixtron AG, Cambridge Display Technology Ltd, Osram Opto Semiconductors GmbH, Philips Lighting BV, and Sagem SA, formed EPIC, which was originally developed by what's called "the OPTIMIST coordinating programme of the IST-5th framework research programme" of the European Commission. EPIC's goal is to build sustainable growth for the European optoelectronics industries by bringing together manufacturers of fabrication equipment, components manufacturers and users of photonics components and systems. Their first project is to develop and maintain their version of a technology roadmap for photonics technologies, which will be the basis for discussions with the EC as a means of encouraging design research and development programs that respond to the needs of European companies. Dr. Bernd Schulte of Aixtron is serving as president of the newly-formed association and stated that, “EPIC is seeking 75 to 100 members from companies and institutions that are highly committed to the success of photonics products that are conceived in Europe, and sold all over the world.” The new consortium is member-owned and operated and membership is open to companies, research institutions, universities, and financial institutions that have operations in the European economic area, including the countries of the European Community, the candidate countries, as well as all non-member European states. Details and contact information are easily accessible online over EPIC's newsly established website,

Vitesse Acquires Austin Texas DSP Supplier for $66 Million

December 29, 2003...Vitesse Semiconductor Corporation of Camarillo, California USA has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire all of the outstanding equity interests of Cicada Semiconductor Corporation of Austin, Texas USA for approximately $66 million in cash. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions, including the approval by Cicada's stockholders and is anticipated to close in the first calendar quarter of 2004. Cicada is a supplier of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) based IC solutions to developers of high-speed communications systems used in LANs and is focused on advanced DSP and System-on-Chip design technologies geared to gigabit-per-second digital communications as used throughout the Internet's infrastructure over ubiquitous copper cable installations and legacy fiber optic links. Cicada was founded in 1996 and Vitesse estimates the acquired products will contribute about $10 million in revenues in calendar 2004, with a majority to be realized in the second half of the year as customers upgrade their 10/100 Mb/s networks to gigabit Ethernet speeds. It is also expected that by the time the transaction closes, Cicada will have reduced its workforce to approximately 40 employees, most of whom will be engaged in product development activities. "This is a natural combination for both companies," said Lou Tomasetta, President/CEO of Vitesse, the compound semi industry veteran who founded Vitesse. "Vitesse and Cicada have been jointly selling gigabit speed switch solutions for over a year, comprised of Vitesse's LAN switches and Cicada's gigabit Ethernet copper transceivers. The combined companies will now offer best in class switches with the highest levels of integration and the lowest power gigabit transceivers. We expect this acquisition to double our revenues in the LAN switch market and to position us to gain share as the market embraces gigabit switch products." Company news release

Fujitsu and SEI Form High Speed Joint Venture

December 28, 2003...As announced on Dec. 25th, Fujitsu Limited and Sumitomo Electric Industries, Ltd. (SEI) entered into an agreement to create a joint venture that will consolidate the operations of Fujitsu Quantum Devices Limited, a wholly owned subsidiary of Fujitsu that is focused on the development, manufacture and sales of compound semiconductors, with the electronic devices business of Sumitomo Electric's compound semiconductor operations. According to the joint company news release, Fujitsu and SEI will each have an equal equity ownership in the joint venture. The new company, which is officially yet to be named, will be engaged in everything from development and manufacturing to sales of a wide variety of compound semiconductor devices and is slated to be operational by April 1, 2004. While some Wall Street commentators (ref: Dow Jones article as one example) have already reacted, singling out TriQuint as a target competitor to the new JV, consensus within our knowledgeable community is that this is inaccurate as the aim of the new joint venture is "to quickly establish the trust of customers worldwide as the world's leader in the field by offering a level of technological and developmental expertise unmatched by any company in the industry." The wafer/materials arm of SEI which is a leading supplier of GaAs, InP, and GaN to virtually everyone in the compound semi industry, remains, as it always has been, a separate division of SEI.

NEC Details Progress on HD DVD Development

December 28, 2003...Next generation DVDs are an exciting field for those working on blue spectrum laser diodes, and NEC Corporation, which recently took a major leap forward within the DVD Forum standards arena, has revealed more details on their gameplan for what's called High Definition and High Density DVDs, or "HD DVD" for short. NEC's HD DVD technology is capable of recording and playing back both current DVDs and next generation DVDs with a single optical head. While complete details are in the NEC company news release, of special note is that, to date, challenges have evidently included the need for two optical heads to develop a device that can play/record both current and next generation DVDs. Success in creating a device with a single optical head enables production of smaller and thinner HD DVDs at a lower cost. Through this research NEC has realized a HD DVD device with a single optical head that is the same size as current DVDs but which achieves 4 times the storage capacity of current DVDs. It is expected that this will enable smooth transition from current DVDs to HD DVDs. Expecting that this technology will improve HD DVD significantly, NEC plans to further advance its technology to promote product development. NEC will display the above accomplishments at the International Consumer Electronics Show (2004 International CES) from January 8 to 11, 2004 in Las Vegas, USA, and Ryoichi (Rick) Hayatsu, Chief Manager, 1st Storage Products Division at NEC, who was a very strong speaker at our June Blue 2003 meet in June, has kindly accepted our invitation to speak at the sequel, Blue 2004, in Hsinchu, Taiwan May 10-12, 2004.

Japanese LED Majors Collaborate on Initial Industry Standards

December 28, 2003...While we all recognize that advanced LEDs are a very international business, we report to you that on December 24, 2003 Nichia Corp., Toyoda Gosei Co. Ltd., Matsushita Electric Works Co. Ltd., and other Japanese advanced LED manufacturers, have made it publicly known that they are working with their country's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry to draw up a common set of initial standards for what looks to be called advanced "LED-based lighting equipment," and they intend to make significant progress in 2004. Further, and as reported in a recent Nihon Keizai Shimbun article "by setting common specifications, such as how many LEDs are lined up, and in what manner and interval, the manufacturers will be able to make their lamps interchangeable just as fluorescent lights and light bulbs are." The journal also reported: "By also setting a universal safety standard, the manufacturers are planning to pitch LED-based lamps as a safe, energy-efficient alternative to fluorescent lights." The starting point will be to establish a standardization organization in the spring and once that's done, they intend to invite Toshiba and Matsushita Electric and other major manufacturers of related products to join the standardization process. Our congratulations to Japan's LED leaders and thei Ministry for taking the initiative on this. However, considering the extremely international nature of the HB- and blue spectrum LED industry (collectively known as "Advanced LEDs" as a means of distinguishing them from "conventional LEDs" which have been around for decades... and are made by an established, very rudimentary compound semi epitaxial growth method), we look forward to hearing more about the root IP such "standards" intend to encompass, and to hearing from other international industry catalysts as to how global advanced LED standards might be put in place in a timely manner that compliment these initial activities from Japan's major producers.

Compound Semi Community Sees First Female President/CEO

December 28, 2003...The compound semi community may not have raised Stephanie Burns as one of its own, but we inherited the 48 year old company president of Dow Corning recently when they purchased the Sterling SiC operation from Uniroyal Technology. As of January 1st, Stephanie Burns will add "CEO" to her title of President of Dow Corning. To the best we can ascertain, Stephanie Burns is the first female President/CEO of a company that regards itself now as a key contributor to compound semi technology. As a supplier of SiC wafers, with eyes on expanding their offerings, Dow Corning is already regarded as a full-fledged member of our close-knit international community. FYI... Stephanie Burns is a Ph.D. who joined Dow Corning in 1983 as a researcher, working on water-based and high temperature elastomers. She earned her doctorate in organic chemistry from Iowa State University and completed postdoctoral studies at the University of Organometallic Chemistry Languedoc-Rousillon in France. Stephanie is a member of the American Chemical Society and a member of the Chemical and Engineering News (C&EN) Advisory Board and is on the Board of Directors for Manpower, Inc., and of the Michigan Molecular Institute (MMI). She is also a board member of the American Chemistry Council and is on the Board of Trustees for the Midland Community Center and also supports Catalyst, a worldwide nonprofit organization working to advance women in business and in the professions. Company news release.

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Commentary & Perspective...

Goodbye '03 Hello '04

December 28, 2003...With the exception of the blue spectrum LED sector, and the handful of key defense contractors and their subs who are directly profiting from the current USA administration's ongoing "war," I doubt anybody working in advanced semiconductors is going to feel badly about saying "good-bye" to the year 2003. Those working in broadband communications are especially glad we're closing the books on what will undoubtedly go down in high tech history as the year we finally hit the bottom after the infamous "Bubble" bust, and started the slow turn upward... back where the sun used to shine. Those still not working at all (due to the incredible number of layoffs from downsizing, bankruptcies, or... in the case of the USA especially, continued belt-tightening measures that necessitate outsourcing and more offshore manufacturing) are really glad 2003 is over. Those of us who have been working virtually for free in enterprises we personally have a stake in, and those who have had to make do with shortened work weeks and/or no raises while carrying progressively heavier loads due to skeletal staffs, joyfully put '03 behind us and look forward to some degree of normalcy. Looking forward to '04, but not clearly knowing what it will bring, I'm reminded of the old '60s slogan that again seems the appropriate new mantra: "Onward... thru the fog."

As we learned at the Outlook for 2004 annual industry conference (and as reported in our Dec. 18th issue) consensus among those in the wireless and opto communication sectors is that the worse is, indeed, over. Of course that prompted a flurry of emails asking if that meant could be interpreted that people are starting to hire again. Keep dreaming, and... think about it. The recovery and rebuild (thus the theme of this year's Outlook) will take time, because "The Downturn" was really, really bad this time. So, surviving companies first have to start to pay themselves by repaying a debt to their surviving employees. Then they have to actually reinstate decent budgets to simply get back to doing business in a preferred manner (as opposed to bare-bones). After that, they can start thinking about once again expanding their product lines and customer base, and... maybe, even beef up R&D once again. That's when they'll consider new hires. Maybe... by mid-2004? We can only hope. In the USA, leaders such as Cree, RFMD and TriQuint will likely be in the point position. After as many years as those three have been taking arrows in the back, they're now tough enough and strong enough to safely follow.

Those focused on the blue spectrum seem to be honestly doing quite well. Have those of you still unemployed done your homework on the wide bandgap semiconductors? If not, it's never too late to get moving in that direction. As has long been known in our inner circles, Group III Nitride development (at all levels of the supply chain) is progressing so well that, collectively, the wide bandgaps are forgone front-runner as the most promising compound semi material types for a number of applications, especially blue spectrum LEDs of all levels of brightness, and as laser diodes and electronic devices. At our Blue 2003 event in Dallas last June, we heard from the brightest of the bright in next gen solid state lighting and lasers. Moral of their story, you really can't go wrong by following the blue spectrum. On top of that, GaN development for electronic applications was clearly the hot topic at the annual Outlook Dec. 15-17th in Dallas, which we'll report more on in the weeks ahead.

So, looking back, our top story of the year was clearly the Blue Spectrum Success. So successful, in fact, that we're taking the show devoted to that sector on the road. We're expanding the focus even more, and the official title of the '04 meet, slated for May 10-12 in Hsinchu, Taiwan is: Blue 2004: Advanced LEDs & Lasers. As we learned at Blue 2003, things are changing, and not so quietly anymore. Emerging from laboratory curiosity, the blue spectrum technologies have become a completed "industry". So, as the follow-on to our successful Blue 2003, we're adding to the blue spectrum big picture with updates and information on some of the up and coming advanced LED technologies that are clearly going to change the industry. And now that things are heating up under the blue laser standards arena for next gen LDs and hard discs, what's happening in advanced laser diodes takes a fresh, potentially very high volume twist. We'll have the agenda for Blue 2004 up soon, but all you need to do is talk to anyone who attended Blue 2003, and you'll understand why you need to be there.

The 2003 shifts in epitaxy suppliers and resulting marketing strategy will also go down in compound semi history as a very important turning point for our field. The shift was most dramatically illustrated when Veeco purchased Emcore's long-established TurboDisc MOCVD line of epi tools. (See End of an Era in MOCVD). 2004 will mark the first ever year when one company, Veeco, can offer the industry their choice of either MBE and MOCVD tools. Veeco's marketing ace, Jim Trevis cleverly illustrated this, symbolically, when giving each Outlook attendee a two-bottle gift pack of private label bottle of white wine, one bottle of red, with the message that the industry could now "have it either way." Another change within the MOCVD community is a feeling of freshness and community openness, led by Aixtron, along with Nippon Sanso and Nippon EMC expanding their commercial operations to the USA. And with the Dec. 18th announcement just out of Japan (ref: coverage) that Nippon Sanso will be merging with Taiyo Toyo Sanso, Nippon Sanso's role in MOCVD may start to strengthen. (Stay tuned for details after the holidays...) For the time being, Veeco and Aixtron are the major epi equipment players, and where they head, others are likely to follow. Aixtron's traditional good work in addressing the Oxides and Veeco's initiative on clustering machines of various types is the type thing we'll see more of as our field expands and influences other advanced semiconductor technologies beyond just the compounds. Clearly, we're converging with the advanced silicon world, not only with a variety of other base material types, but with an uplifting, cohesive industry-wide message that the compounds can help lead silicon up and out of their traditional boxes.

"Advanced Semi's" in 2004? Yes. It began with SiGe and SiC, but since those two material types had two names, we simply embraced them as "compounds." But... the adoption of those two material types by mainstream silicon users illustrates that we don't have to position ourselves against vanilla silicon anymore. And as we'll likely see in 2004, we're probably not going to remain an isolated compound semi community. With fields like nanotechnology, quantum wells, and MEMs finally moving into the mainstream, and with such a rich variety of laser technologies coming onboard, we'll likely all feel more comfortable thinking of our field more generically as "Advanced Semi" based. In fact, if you type in "" into your browser... guess where you go? (In case you're thinking "Why just 'semi' instead of its full name 'semiconductor'?" Just try typing that whole name accurately and quickly into your browser and you too will quickly shortcut to "semi").

So, say Hello to 2004. My prediction is that it will be a year of sensible expansion, a leveling of many playing fields, and closer cooperation that brings with it opportunities for more talented people that continue to advance the field of semiconductors as only our kind of professionals can... through continued innovation, improved manufacturing practices, and every more clever and environmentally friendly systems. Happy New Year and the best of luck to everyone in 2004.

If you have news or views to share about the compound semiconductor, LED or solid state lighting industries
contact our Publisher, Tom Griffiths
His direct tel in Austin is +1-512-257-9888

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